Seanad suspended over row about ‘misogynistic’ remarks

Fianna Fáil Senator took exception when Buttimer claimed she was ‘trying to assert herself’

Fine Gael Senator Jerry Buttimer and Fianna Fáil Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee were involved in a row in the chamber. Photographs: The Irish Times

Fine Gael Senator Jerry Buttimer and Fianna Fáil Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee were involved in a row in the chamber. Photographs: The Irish Times

 

The Seanad was suspended for 15 minutes after a heated row over whether remarks by the leader of the House were misogynistic.

Seanad leader Jerry Buttimer had been responding to Fianna Fáil’s Terry Leydon about media influence on Government policy. Mr Leydon claimed the media was spinning Government policy and the Fine Gael Senator retorted that Fianna Fáil had had its own “propaganda unit” in the media when in government.

Fianna Fáil’s Lorraine Clifford-Lee intervened and said of Fine Gael that “you guys had an awful lot more spin doctors than we ever had”.

Mr Buttimer retorted: “I know Senator Clifford-Lee is trying to assert herself here but it is important to listen as well.”

Sinn Féin Senator Máire Devine intervened and told Mr Buttimer “that is not good language” and Ms Clifford-Lee said it was “very gendered language”.

“It is very misogynistic language,” she added. “I take exception to misogynistic language used in my direction.”

Independent Senator David Norris described her remarks as “rubbish, absolute tripe”.

When Ms Clifford-Lee said she would continue to call out misogynistic language, Mr Buttimer said it was fair enough if she wanted to “throw things at me” but he insisted “one thing she cannot accuse me of is that. I have never done that.”

But Ms Clifford-Lee asked “would the leader have said it if it was a man who was sitting where I am?”.

Mr Norris said “of course he would. He is neutral.”

There was repeated heckling and intervention and Cathaoirleach Denis O’Donovan suspended the House for 15 minutes.

When the Seanad resumed Mr Buttimer called on the Fianna Fáil Senator to withdraw her remarks. “I am very upset,” he said. “I enjoy the rough and tumble of politics but I have never in my 12 years in the Oireachtas been personal or made personal charges against people.”

He added that he was “very disappointed” and repeated his call for her to withdraw the remark.

But Ms Clifford-Lee said she would not and called on him to withdraw the remarks he made against her.

A number of Fine Gael Senators called on her to withdraw the accusation of misogyny and Senator Gabrielle McFadden said “she is damaging the cause of women. She should withdraw her remark.”